Find a great preschool. Shy children can blossom in the right environment. Try to choose a program that has a teacher-to-student ratio of no more than 1:7 (state-mandated maximum ratios range from 1:7 to 1:20 for kids this age). Bring her to the new school several days before classes start, so she can meet the teachers and become familiar with the layout of the building. Let the teacher know about your child’s shyness, and together create a plan to make your child feel more at ease. Stay in close contact with the teacher during the school year so you can work with her to address any problems.
Give your child time to prepare. In all situations, your child’s anxiety will decrease if she knows what to expect. A few days before a birthday party, for example, you might arrange to take your child to the friend’s house to meet the parents and hear about the schedule of events. Carolyn Smith, of Las Vegas, gives 4-year-old Ami weeks to get ready for new experiences. “If she has to go to the dentist, I’ll drive by the office and point it out ahead of time,” Smith says. “We’ll go inside the office the week before to help her feel more comfortable.”
Listen patiently. Encourage your child to talk about his fears, and try to empathize with his experience without dismissing his concerns. You might say, “Feeling shy can be difficult” or “Sometimes I feel shy too.”
Practice at home. Make a game out of acting out different scenarios with your child, such as meeting a new kid at school. Switch roles so your child can experience both sides of the social equation. Smith helps Ami practice what to do if another girl wants to share her doll, for example, or if a rough boy tries to grab a toy she’s playing with. “The repetition of role playing has helped Ami become much less fearful and intimidated,” Smith says.